Police reforms: CHRI report calls for common cadres instead of separate cadres for men and women

Police reforms: CHRI report calls for common cadres instead of separate cadres for men and women

As in other countries of the region, policing in India is in urgent need of reform overall, recommends CHRI


By Aarti Dhar



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s in other countries of the region, policing in India is in urgent need of reform overall. For, as long as a 150-year old law that is based on a seriously outdated notion of colonial, control-based policing remains as the framework, reform of any kind will be like swimming upstream, says a latest report on “Rough Roads to Equality – Women Policing in South Asia-2015” brought out by the Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI).


Poor policies and practices, a lack of oversight, inadequate resourcing and infrastructure are just a few of a host of problems faced by women police, and all cause deep-rooted problems among which addressing the under-representation and conditions of women police officers in some ways becomes difficult. “Nonetheless, there is an urgent need to devote specific attention to the plight of women in the police. The severe under-representation is not disputed; there is recognition from the Centre in particular of this, advisories on the matter have been issued, and many state governments have followed suit by announcing reservations for women,” says the report.


The first problem that arises is with attitudes and culture as there are deeply ingrained stereotypes of women as unsuited to policing and resultant discrimination that manifest themselves in a failure to genuinely appreciate the contribution that women can make, or to mainstream them effectively through the organisation. Many women therefore end up being confined to the same ranks or positions for years. They are left feeling that they have to work twice as hard to prove themselves and not complain. This does not make for a congenial working environment for women and has negative consequences for police departments as a whole.


The discrimination that manifests in departmental policies and practices which disadvantage women must be recognised and addressed urgently. There is a pressing need to eradicate separate cadres for men and women at recruitment and promotion, wherever they exist, and institute common cadres. Added to this is the lack of facilities and policies that are necessary to ensure a dignified and respectful workplace for women: from basic amenities such as toilets and restrooms, to policies such as a shift system, or postings which enable them to more easily balance work and family responsibilities.


The lack of these facilities and policies contribute to a shared perception among women police that police departments do not sufficiently accommodate women’s particular needs. The fact that women do not get sufficiently broad policing experience which is in turn impacting on their inability to progress into higher positions has a knock on effect as women leaders are needed in the police to inspire other women, break stereotypes and challenge male culture.


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The CHRI carried out research in Kerala (Trivandrum), Rajasthan (Jaipur), Jharkhand (Ranchi city and Khunti), Meghalaya (Shillong) and Haryana (Rewari, Mewat, Mahendragarh and Narnaul). These States were based on the access provided by the respective police departments.


The report says very little has changed in the structure and ethos of Indian policing since 1861, the year in which the Police Act was passed. The 1861 Act remains the statute in place and the basis for police laws that govern policing in Indian states, despite an intervening 68 years of independence, and a progressive Constitution with human rights, democracy, and rule of law at its heart. While democracy is fully embedded, there has been no systemic fundamental reform of the police in independent India. Women had little place in colonial policing. At a current national average of 6 per cent, they are only very slowing finding some subordinated space in the establishment.


Kerala was the first State to have women in the police force, beginning with the first woman inducted into the then Travancore Royal Police in 1933. Thereafter, recruitment of women into the police in other States began only after Independence, and even then it was sporadic.  It was not until 1972 that the fi rst woman was appointed to the Indian Police Service.


By the time the National Police Commission completed its eight reports in 1981, women accounted for a mere 3000 or 0.4 per cent of the total police in the country. Violence against women in India is coupled with little access to remedies. The particularly brutal gang-rape and murder of a young woman in Delhi in 2012 brought to the fore the numerous dangers women have to contend with in daily life.


This led to calls for greater attention to the problem of violence against women, and in tandem, the need for more women in policing. Beyond the value of greater diversity as a good in itself, it was felt that more women can improve the sensitivity and quality of police response to women by changing the internal culture. The figures do show a slight increase in the numbers since then; but after the heat of the moment died down, efforts to bring in more women as a minimum condition of improved response have been sporadic and the pace of inducting women remains glacial.


Asking the Ministry of Home Affairs to re-conceptualise the role of women police by broadening the role of women police beyond dealing with crimes against women, the CHRI has said there was a need to rethink the segregation of women police into specific “women-only” tasks and consider ways of bringing them into mainstream functions.


Importantly, it calls for enforcing the advisory to increase representation of women police to 33 per cent in the Union Territories (UTs) and reviewing overall vacancies in addition to developing a model gender policy for police departments to guide the process of improving gender ratios in the police clearly emphasis gender equality as a core value of the police.


The CHRI wants the government to lay down the guiding principles towards gender mainstreaming including strategies to achieve institutionalization of gender equality within the police force, policy targets with set timelines and set timelines and stipulated institutionalize roles and responsibilities.


The process to draft the model gender policy should begin by setting-up of a committee, preferably headed by a senior woman officer, responsible for preparing a draft, the committee should reflect a balance between police practitioners and subject experts drawn from civil society and independent experts. The committee should identify gender issues and disparities in the police force including review of police laws, regulations, recruitment, training, transfer policy, promotion policies, organisational sub-culture, police station facilities and environment, and policing practices overall. More important, it should consult women personnel across States and across ranks, through focus group discussions and consultation meetings, to understand operational difficulties and discrimination faced by them which will in turn help to draft specific policy provisions.


The CHRI wants Parliament to monitor action being taken by the Union and State governments on recommendations put forward by the Parliamentary Committee on Empowerment of Women on the issue of working conditions of women police. For State Home Departments, the CHRI wants reforms in the existing police acts and regulations to strengthen gender equality in policing by incorporating gender-neutral language, ensuring women police officers are entrusted with the same duties and powers as other police officers, clearly specifying functions which women police officers are exclusively entrusted with (as required under Indian criminal law), and reviewing service conditions to accommodate the specific needs of women.


For Police Departments, the CHRI recommends cultivation of a gender-sensitive organisational culture and adopting a zero tolerance policy on gender discrimination within the department, in addition to developing standard operating procedures on workplace norms including on behaviour, language, and practices of men and women police officers.


Another important recommendation is to enhance the visibility of women by increasing the number of women police personnel in police patrols/PCR, beat duties, traffic duties and other public interface duties involving interaction with the general public, and not just women and children. Specialised training such as on crimes against women should be linked to promotion opportunities.


In evaluating performance, ensure that merit overrides all other factors, including the kinds of tasks done. Ensure that availing flexible working hours during pregnancy and on rejoining after maternity leave, as recommended, is not held negatively against women personnel and implementing in earnest and with full compliance the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013, the CHRI report says.


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Aarti Dhar is a Delhi-based senior journalist who has covered a variety of social, developmental and political issues, which includes over two-decade-long association with The Hindu as Deputy Editor

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